Dan in Reel Life

Dan in Real Life has this much going for it: It is not the worst Steve Carell film of 2007. That honor, of course, goes to Evan Almighty, which even the Lord walked out of during the second reel. Fact is, Dan isn’t really much of a film at all — it’s more like a montage of other movies, with Carell serving as the host of what could pass for a prime-time AFI special. One could fill this entire space with the titles of films from which writer-director Peter Hedges nicks his story, but for the sake of expediency, we’ll narrow it down to a desert-island handful: Home for the Holidays, The Family Stone, Sleepless in Seattle, What About Bob? and Hedges’ own excellent Thanksgiving-dinner-flavored Pieces of April. Then add to this cinematic stew your own cast — Carell as the widower with three young girls, Dane Cook as the brother, Juliette Binoche as the brother’s girlfriend, Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney as the parents, Emily Blunt as the blind date, and assorted other familiar faces posing as family members gathered in an idyllic oceanside spot — and the dots connect themselves. The charitable might view Dan as a sort of spiritual sequel to The 40-Year-Old Virgin: Dan’s the little man Andy might have become had his One True Love abandoned him with three children to whom he can’t connect, because every time he looks at them he sees the remnants of his former life. Or it could just be that the movie steals from that line in Virgin about Carell looking kinda like Luke Wilson, since here Carell is, after all, playing the Luke Wilson role from The Family Stone. (Citywide)

—Robert Wilonsky

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